I’m a Tel Avivian who makes an effort to observe mitzvot. I wear a kippah almost all the time, and on Shabbat you can find me in a white shirt strolling along Ben-Gurion Blvd. on my way to one of a number of synagogues packed with young people praying on the holy day.
On the way, I pass one or two cafes that are open for business and filled with customers. I don’t understand how they can live in a world without one day a week in which a person can not work, and they don’t understand how I can live in an antiquated world that brings me back a 1,000 years to the same blessed day, week after week. We exchange glances of mutual respect, and each goes on with his or her own special day. There’s no exchange of words in this space.
Everyone lives his or her life and can’t truly express the sense of personal calm and enjoyment derived from Shabbat; it’s simply a personal matter of lifestyle.
We’ve all gotten along until today, but now a change in Tel Aviv’s status quo is on the table. Shabbat also exists in the public: There are leisure destinations, businesses and transportation, each open or closed, depending on the owner’s personal beliefs.
There isn’t any real coercion in Tel Aviv. There are mini-buses that transport people from place to place, on Saturday as well, and it is the prerogative of those who want that in a democratic country. Because there are also those who think Shabbat must be observed, wars of words erupt that evolve into actions, whereby each side stands up and loudly laments losing his liberties, his day of rest. And just like in any other war – there are no real winners.
On Shabbat I visit friends who also observe mitzvot (I use those words to avoid the ambiguous term “religious”), and one mitzvah they especially observe is hosting guests.
What’s special about my hosts’ Shabbat meal is that they always invite guests of the kind Rabbi Kook would have called “liberated” (not “secular,” because to point out someone is completely secular with nothing “holy” about them borders on idiotic insensitivity). And so, during each of these meals, different people are exposed to Shabbat’s unique aura, and more and more people understand the special idea behind having one day a week where one can disconnect from everyday life and enter a warm, love-filled familial space.
There is no point in arguing about the buses that may or may not run on Shabbat in the big city. If your heart so desires, hop on the No. 5 line and head to the beach on Saturday. But I have one suggestion for those who insist on changing the character of Shabbat: If you’re in the mood to try something different, come over to my place or to a religious friend’s home for a Shabbat meal. Suddenly the importance of riding a bus on Shabbat will seem different.